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Niki Lauda’s 2007 Forecast 13 Mar 2007

Niki Lauda (AUT). Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 10 March 2006. World © Bumstead/Sutton

With Michael Schumacher gone, new talent aplenty, and some high-profile seat swapping thrown into the mix, the 2007 season promises to be one of the most open Formula One contests in years. Predicting the outcome, therefore, could be a hard task. Not, it seems, for three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who takes charge of the crystal ball with ease. Speaking exclusively to Formula1.com, the Austrian divulges his expectations for the year...

On the absence of Michael Schumacher:
NL:
His departure has not created a void, because in every sport champions come and go. In Germany there probably will be an effect, because if the Schumacher fans don’t start the season, there will be less interest. But for the German fans there are two German teams, BMW Sauber and McLaren-Mercedes. Plus there are four German drivers on the grid, Nico Rosberg, Nick Heidfeld, Ralf Schumacher and Adrian Sutil - so everybody can choose the hero of his flavour. Those four guys will take over the interest, and all the fans will come back.

On the crowd of potential podium contenders:
NL:
We are heading for a very exciting season. I saw Ferrari and McLaren in the last couple of tests as being evenly quick, and also BMW Sauber and Renault have shown good performance. Because of the single tyre supplier and the frozen engines it will all depend on cars and drivers. These facts will transform 2007 into the most interesting season in years.

On what will make the difference this year:
NL:
For the drivers, the strategy must be not to make any mistakes and to drive on their limit. And the technically quicker and more reliable car will win.

On Kimi Raikkonen replacing Michael Schumacher at Ferrari:
NL:
Kimi might have a problem with Felipe Massa at the beginning, because Massa has the experience of last year, but in the long run I believe Kimi will be quicker.

On Ferrari adapting to Raikkonen’s style:
NL:
Ferrari will always adapt to the quicker driver, regardless of who he is.

On the new guys at McLaren - Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton:
NL:
McLaren are in the best position, because they have the world champion driving for them. Fernando Alonso is the best driver as of today. Lewis Hamilton has proved in the past that he is the quickest from the pack of young hotshots. He now has a season to learn ahead of him and I am sure that he is going to perform very well.

On who will adapt quicker to their new team - Raikkonen at Ferrari or Alonso at McLaren:
NL:
This I cannot say after testing only - I will have to wait until after the first three Grands Prix. Albert Park is a very particular race and if the cars are performing well the truth will start to emerge in Kuala Lumpur - a very tough circuit on tyres, aerodynamics and engine. After Bahrain I will have a much clearer picture on who did the better job.

On world champions Renault:
NL:
Normally Renault have been very competitive. Now it depends on the drivers, if they are able to replace Alonso. But as Flavio (Briatore) has always shown that he has the right touch, I think we can expect a good performance from Heikki Kovalainen. And Giancarlo Fisichella can finally prove that he’s got it.

On the pace of the BMW Saubers:
NL:
BMW seem very quick in testing, so they have made a big step forward, but they have to prove in the races if they are able to convert this into reality.

Click here to go to Part Two of Lauda's 2007 Forecast.